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Main Content

Successful Dog Training

By Carol Davis

Photography by Mark Mosrie

Bringing home a new pet is exciting, and getting to know and love each other can create a bond that will last the lifetime of the animal.

But too many pets — particularly dogs — end up either in shelters or on the street because of bad behavior or other issues that are no fault of the dog’s.

That’s why choosing the best pet for your situation and working with that pet to adapt well to your family is so crucial, says Kristi Howe, a dog trainer and volunteer for Imagine Pet Rescue, the Savannah, Ga., rescue that won Tractor Supply’s “Rescue Your Rescue” contest last year.

Howe, as a pet rescue volunteer, has seen first-hand both adoption successes and failures, and she offers five ways to help nearly any dog adoption thrive — for everyone involved:

1. Take the Time to Find the Right Dog for Your Family.

“Don’t just adopt a dog because it’s cute,” she advises. “Find one that’s the right breed, size, energy level, and temperament.”

For example, a boisterous Labrador retriever puppy, which will grow into a large dog, will not do well in a small apartment, she says. It needs room to run and fetch.

Senior citizens should consider adopting an older dog who also may be slowing down a bit, rather than a puppy that needs frequent walking.

Families with children must be sure to choose a dog that loves kids and can handle their play, Howe says.

“The goal is to find the best personality that fits your family so you set the dog up for success,” she says.

2. Treat Your New Puppy as if He Already is an Adult Dog.

Rambunctious behavior may be cute in puppies, but it can be troublesome in adult dogs, so the idea is to get it under control quickly, Howe says.

“Don’t let your puppy jump on people because once he becomes a big dog, it won’t be so cute if he knocks people over,” she says.

A barking puppy can turn into a barking adult, which is not only annoying to neighbors, but dangerous for the dog if it triggers an aggressive reaction in other, larger dogs, she says.

3. Exercise Them.

This requires more than simply taking your dog for a walk, Howe says.

Chances are, your dog has been sleeping all day — perhaps in a crate.

“You can’t expect them to get all their energy out with just a short walk,” she says.

Walk them, yes, but spend the time to go outside and play with them. Play fetch or work on obedience training.

And when you spend time with them, don’t forget to spend quiet time, as well.

“This will help fulfill their needs and help fulfill your need of cuddle time,” Howe says.

4. Use Crate Training.

A crate is not only a way to quickly housetrain a dog, but it can serve as a place where they feel safe, Howe says.

“They love tight places because it makes them feel secure,” she says. “It’s their own safety zone.”

With a soft blanket and a few toys, your dog will feel perfectly satisfied to stay in his crate for short periods when you need to be away from the house. Many dogs seek out their crate for long naps or to rest, she says.

A crate shouldn’t be used to store a locked-in animal for hours on end.

5. Socialize Them.

Get your dog comfortable with the world around them by walking them around and meeting people, Howe suggests.

“They’ll get used to the different sounds and smells so they won’t get nervous when you take them places,” she says. “They’ll realize that this is a good place.”